Wednesday October 03, 2012 | 12:51 PM

WASHINGTON – An internal poll released by supporters of Republican Charlie Summers suggests that Angus King’s lead in Maine’s Senate race has fallen into the single digits, but not because Summers is on the move.

The poll commissioned by the National Republican Senatorial Committee says that King – an independent and two-term Maine governor – leads Summers by just 3.8 percent, which is within the margin of error in the 400-person survey. That is a much smaller gap than seen in other recent polls.

The NRSC poll shows King still in the lead at 37.3 percent, Summers in second with 33.5 percent and Democrat Cynthia Dill at 17 percent with 12.3 percent undecided.

Internal polls should often be regarded with more than the proverbial grain of salt (perhaps a 40-pound bag of rock salt?). Polling results are greatly influenced by the wording of the questions asked and who, exactly, was targeted in the survey along with many other factors. NRSC had not yet released the specifics of this poll, which was conducted by GS Strategy Group out of Idaho.

The results certainly fit into the current narrative -- as shown in numerous other polls -- that King’s once-commanding lead is slipping. The NRSC seems to be suggesting King is in a freefall, ostensibly helped along by the ads the organization is running against King. Other recent, independent polls put King’s lead over Summers somewhere between 8 and 22 percent.

Where most of the polls seem to agree – regardless of who paid for them – is that Summers is somewhere in the 33 percent to 35 percent range and that he seems to be staying put despite the fluctuations around him. Even the two NRSC-commissioned polls conducted about three weeks apart in September showed Summers holding firm (or stuck, depending on your point of view) at 33.5 percent.

Dill, on the other hand, appears to be chipping away at King’s lead. The internal Republican poll showed Dill moving from 11 percent to 17 percent in three weeks. A longer-term poll conducted by the Portland Press Herald/MaineToday Media, meanwhile, showed that Dill’s support among Democrats rose from 17 percent to 25 percent between June and September while King’s support within that critical group fell from 67 percent to 62 percent.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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